NFL Draft

Written by Julius Jasper (@MasterAlpha_DFW)


Danny Shelton, DT, Cleveland


Destination:

Cleveland Browns

Overview:

With the 12th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected Danny Shelton from the University of Washington. The Browns are getting a highly decorated and intelligent young man who is an Academic All-American, high school state shot-put champion, standout wrestler, and first-team all-state offensive/defensive lineman. The Browns are hoping Shelton takes advantage of the opportunity.  There are high hopes in Cleveland for Danny Shelton. If the Browns are going to improve on their 32nd ranked run defense, they need Shelton to become all they are hoping for and then some.

Nuts & Bolts

College

Washington

Position

NT

Height

6’2′

Weight

339 lbs.

40-Yard Dash

5.64

Bench Press Reps

34 reps at 225 lbs.

Vertical Jump

30.5 inches

3 Cone Drill

7.99 seconds

Broad Jump

95 inches

Historical & Contemporary Player Comparisons:

  • Vince Wilfork
  • Dan Hampton
  • Haloti Ngata
  • Tony Siragusa
  • Dontari Poe
  • Dana Stubblefield

Highlights:

Organizational Fit:

The Cleveland Browns have recently been a puzzling organization from an “Identity” perspective. It’s been many years since the days of Clay Matthews, Thane Gash, Frank Minnifield, Michael Dean Perry, Mike Johnson and Rob Burnett. The offense in those days was headed by Bernie Kosar as he led Webster Slaughter, Brian Brennan, and Ozzie Newsome. Despite not having much success, there was an identity present for the Browns.

Fast forward until today and the Browns are in a state of transition. The quarterback position is manned by a career journeyman. The running game is a big question mark.  And the defense just lost two integral pieces in Jabaal Sheard and Athyhba Rubin. Danny Shelton is not coming into a situation where there will be a richness of proven leadership to guide him. A lot will be asked of him and the expectations will be sky high from the Browns fans.

Defensive Scheme:

Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil installed a 3-4 defense when he arrived in 2014 with Head Coach Mike Pettine. The configuration of the 3-4 defense consists of two Defensive Ends, one Nose Tackle, two Inside Linebackers, two Outside Linebackers, two Cornerbacks, and two Safeties. This defense is highly dependent upon the Nose Tackle creating a vortex by sucking in at least the Center and a Guard.

Shelton’s chief responsibility will be to police the “A” gaps which are the two holes between the center and guards, while holding his ground and avoiding being pressed into the linebackers. If a running play is called to hit one of the “A” gaps, it is critical that Shelton either make the tackle on the ball carrier or clog up the gap, preventing the Guard or Center from attacking the linebackers. The model nose tackle has to be smart, athletic, extremely strong, and weighs at least 335 pounds or more. Shelton satisfies and exceeds the physical standard and has shown the consistent ability to anchor a 3-4 defense.

Path to Playing Time:

The immediate path to playing time looks to be all clear for Shelton. Phil Taylor had previously manned the Nose Tackle position but there are rumors that his injury history in addition to a non-guaranteed $5.477 million salary due this coming season will pave the way for Shelton to start from day one.
Here are two recent quotes from Browns Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil in reference to Shelton…

“He’s a very smart football player. I think in two days, he’s only had one [busted play], and we’ve thrown the whole playbook at him. We’ve thrown everything at him. He’s done a great job mentally. It takes a little time to get in football shape and get caught up to the speed of the game, but for the amount of time that he’s missed and what he’s done in the first two days, I can’t be happier.”

“You draft a guy like that, you hope that he’s going to eat up two blocks at the point of attack, which might allow you to play in lighter spacing, maybe play a little more two high safeties instead of loading the box up. The thing that we’re excited about is his ability to push the pocket in the passing game and get the quarterback off his spot because we feel that is going to make the rest of our pass rushers better…We think that having that guy who can push the pocket and the quarterback off his spot is going to make everybody around him better.”

Team Impact

Let’s take a look at all of the Defensive Linemen for the Browns so that we can gain a better perspective as to what type of situation Shelton finds himself in.

Phil Taylor – As previously mentioned, there is no threat from Taylor as it relates to Shelton. One anonymous NFC scout put in like this… “He is better than Phil Taylor the minute he steps in the building and is a definitive upgrade to the interior of the unit.”  The only way Taylor would see extended snaps going forward is if Shelton were to struggle with the rookie wall or suffer an injury.

Desmond Bryant – Bryant is probably the best pass rusher the Browns have coming off the edge. He dealt with injuries last year and was questionable to begin the year with a heart issue in addition to wrist surgery. He enters the 2015 season healthy and ready to rush the passer from the Defensive End position. If Bryant can provide his fair share of pressure off the edge, this will only help Shelton.

Randy Starks – Starks comes to the Browns as a free agent by way of the Miami Dolphins as a cap casualty. He made his name as a determined pass rusher but he is just a platoon player at this point in his career. His veteran presence will be a major benefit for Shelton as he works to perfect his craft. Starks will platoon at Defensive End and most likely provide a breather for Shelton if it is needed. There isn’t any reason to expect Starks to take snaps from Shelton unless rushing the passer on 3rd down proves to be too much for the rookie.

John Hughes – Years ago it was thought that Hughes could take over the Nose Tackle position. Injuries and a lack of play-making derailed that hope. At this point, Hughes will be another platoon participant.

Xavier Cooper – An athletic pass rusher who doesn’t excel at stopping the run. The Browns traded up in the 2015 NFL Draft to select Cooper so they obviously like him a lot. Expect to see Cooper being given an opportunity to earn the starting Defensive End job opposite of Desmond Bryant. If Cooper can ascend to the level where he commands a double team, Shelton will wreak havoc on the interior. That’s a big “IF”.

Where to Draft:

This is based fundamentally on the roster requirements of your league. If you are in a league that requires that you deploy a Defensive Tackle as part of your starting lineup, then securing a guy like Shelton before he makes a household name for himself is a must. But even more than that, when it comes to Interior Linemen, you want the guys who are going to play on passing downs as well as rushing downs. This is where the added value comes from.

Currently, DFW ADP has Shelton at #52 amongst rookies, being drafted in the mid 5th round. Again, it just depends on the roster requirements of your league.

Conclusion:

Danny Shelton is going to be the engine that allows the Browns defense flow for years to come. He will probably be more valuable in real life than for most of your fantasy teams. The exception will be the leagues where Defensive Tackle is a required position. If you get deep into your draft and you have to choose between your 7th WR or your first Defensive Tackle, I would counsel you to fill this need. If you don’t, you might regret it.

Great Game Potential:

Tackles Pass Def. Int. Sacks

5                                              0              0                                              2